On Sunday night we all got our first real taste of what the 2015 Raiders. Some of it was sweet, some of it extremely bitter. That is to say, the defense was mouthwatering and the offense was gag reflex inducing.
To be fair, the Cardinals have one hell of a defense. But there are no excuses in this business, and this team is going to face some tough defenses from time to time and their offense must perform better than it did Sunday.
For that reason, you may notice the Ballers portion of this week's edition has a very defensive feel to it. In turn, the Busters will be downright offensive. That's not by design and it isn't me setting a theme or sending a message. It's just how it played out.
Even with the offensive struggles by the Raiders, they actually held the lead at the end of the third quarter, 15-10 when their final starters left the game. Though that lead was surrendered on the very first play of the fourth quarter. At one point the Raiders had a 15-3 lead and it was pretty much all due to the play of the defense.
The Cardinals would score again to take a 23-15 lead until the Raiders third team offense came in the game and drove for a game tying TD and 2-point conversion. Then the Cardinals went on a drive of their own in the final seconds to put the game away and keep it from going to overtime. No one wants to see overtime in the preseason, especially with third teamers and fringe players in the game.
This one was more about the starters than the fringe players. That too will be apparent in this week's B&B.
What more can be said about this wrecking ball/attack dog? I have run out of superlatives. I think the Cardinals' offensive players were left searching for a few after his display Sunday. An interception helped get the Raiders on the board early with a 3-0 lead. The next FOUR drives ALL ended with a Mack pressure. The following drive ended with a three-and-out with Mack getting pressure to force an incompletion. The next drive ended with Mack in the backfield again, this time to force a fumble. The Cardinals recovered, but the loss of yards made for a long 54-yard field goal that was missed short. That's point taken off the board.
The next drive Mack forced Carson Palmer out of the pocket where Benson Mayowa hit him as he threw incomplete. And the fourth of the first five drives ended with a Mario Edwards sack which had Mack right there with him to help out. Mack also shared a run stuff on that drive which ended with a Cardinals field goal.
Mack was far from done. Later in the second quarter, he bullrushed Jared Veldheer into Carson Palmer, causing him to throw quickly and Stacy McGee batted it down at the line. Two plays later, Mack put a move on the right tackle to sack Palmer and complete the three-and-out.
Another Raiders interception helped give the Raiders a 15-3 lead. Mack came out on the following drive intent on keeping that lead. He got pressure around the right tackle to force another quick throw and yet another batted pass at the line, this time by Denico Autry. A few plays later, on third and one with :05 seconds left in the half, he got around the right tackle again, took on a double team and sacked Palmer to end the first half.
The defense barely saw the field in the third quarter so in one half of football, Khalil Mack had 3 tackles (2 solo), 2.0 sacks, 4 QB hurries, and one forced fumble. That would be Balling for a full game. Dude is unbelievable.
He got a vote of confidence this week form his defensive coordinator and head coach. Then he went out and proved them right on every account. He had tight coverage on the tight end which caused Carson Palmer to overthrow him where it was intercepted by Nate Allen on the opening drive.
Smith began the next drive with a run stuff and the Cardinals went three-and-out. The next drive he had another run stuff for a short gain and on the next play he got in the backfield to disrupt the play where Mack was able to force the fumble.
In the second quarter he added a tackle for loss on a run that led to another three-and-out. He would finish as the Raiders leading tackler with 9 total (6 solo). What a pickup this former Super Bowl MVP was.
Two interceptions in this game. He intercepted Carson Palmer on the opening drive and immediately put the Raiders in field goal range for a 3-0 lead. His second interception gave the Raiders their final score of the first half. Another overthrow by Palmer and Allen was right there to capitalize. This time he returned it to the 29-yard-line and again set the Raiders up for a field goal and a 15-3 lead.
His interceptions are enough to make him a Baller, but he did more than just that. He teamed up for the first tackle of the day on a 5-yard bubble screen. The second drive of the day ended in an incompletion thanks in part to his tight coverage on the intended target. The next drive he teamed up for a run stuff just short of the marker and the drive ended on a failed third and one play. Another good looking 2015 free agent pickup.
Janikowski was responsible for all of the Raiders' first half point. He hit all five of his field goals from 49, 33, 42, 28, and 32 yards out. All of his kickoffs were touchbacks as well. Flawless execution by Seabass.
He shed a block on a bubble screen and assisted on the first tackle of the game along with Nate Allen. He and Allen teamed up again for tight coverage on an incompletion to end the Cardinals' second drive. Carrie then made a run stuff tackle on the first play of the following drive and helped end that same drive assisting on the tackle for loss that resulted in a forced fumble.
The first play of the next drive, Carrie jumped a Palmer pass intended for Larry Fitzgerald and batted it down to begin a three-and-out.
On the only defensive drive in the third quarter, Carrie started with a stop on a 3-yard catch. A few plays later he had tight coverage on an incompletion. His only hiccup in this game was a 26-yard catch he gave up that nearly put them in scoring position. They would miss the long field goal attempt. Carrie continues to prove how much of a steal he was in the seventh round of the 2014 draft by being the best cornerback on this roster.
Autry just keeps stepping his game up. He started this game in place of Justin Tuck and looked like a younger version of Justin Tuck. It was Autry who put on the pressure on the first drive that led to the Allen interception. Later in the first quarter, he batted down a ball at the line of scrimmage and also had a run stuff. Just before halftime, he had another batted pass at the line. He added another run stuff in the third quarter followed by an assist on a tackle for loss. This former undrafted free agent has become quite a player.
On national TV, Cooper gave the nation a taste of what he brings to the field. He is quick, fast, and elusive. It took nine targets to get his team-leading four receptions, but most of those were errant throws (and one which he lost in the sun). And his 62 yards were almost all YAC.
His first catch went for just 4 yards, but it was in the red zone to put the Raiders at the 15-yard line. They would add a field goal a few plays later for a 6-0 lead.
His second catch was a big one. With All Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson guarding him, Cooper went upfield, dug in and came back on a curl where the ball was right there from Carr. Then Cooper shook Peterson's tackle attempt and shot upfield for a 37-yard gain to the 21-yard-line. Carr went back to Coop on the next play for a 13-yard catch. The result was a chipshot field goal and a 12-3 lead.
The next drive, Carr went right back to Cooper on a bubble screen. Cooper again broke a tackle and took it for a nine-yard gain. Two plays later, the two showed their newness with a miscommunication on an incompletion and the Raiders again settled for a field goal.
Was the Raiders' third leading receiver with 3 catches on 4 targets for 42 yards. He also caught the team first first down of the game late in the first quarter. He went on a seam route, found a soft spot and turned to face his quarterback, who hit him for an 18-yard gain on third and 16. It helped set them up for their second score of the game and a 6-0 lead.
The Raiders would add another score on the following drive and Rivera had another first down catch on the drive, this one for nine yards on second and 8. His final catch went for 15 yards late in the third quarter. With Clive Walford still out with injury, Rivera continues to be a great weapon to have at the Raiders' disposal.
The third team didn't see much time in this game. Two drives to be exact. On the first of those drives, McGloin led the Raiders to their only touchdown of the day. Highlights of that drive included an 11-yard toss to Michael Dyer on third and 5, a 20-yard connection with Seth Roberts on third and 8, a well-executed play action fake to pick up 10 yards on a screen pass to Dyer, a 16-yard pass to Seth Roberts, a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kris Durham, and to tie the game at 23 all, a perfect throw to Brice Butler to complete the two-point conversion. No shrug from McGloin after that drive unfortunately. He finished the day going 11 for 15 for 114 yards and a touchdown with a passer rating of 117.1.
Earlier this week, Jack Del Rio said he wanted to see "continued effort" from Edwards. He answered with 2.0 sacks in this game. It was his only plays of the game, but it's plenty in limited snaps.
Marquette King - placed two punts inside the 20-yard line on fair catches. It also appears any past issues with holding for Sebastian Janikowski are gone as Seabass connected on all five attempts.
Curtis Lofton - Finished third on the team with 5 solo tackles including one tackle for loss.
Brice Butler -- He caught two passes. One on a crossing route which he took for a 30-yard gain. The other was for successful 2-point conversion to tie the game.
Seth Roberts - Finished second on the team in receiving with 3 catches on 4 targets for 52 yards. This included 2 catches for 36 yards on the team's only touchdown drive.
Roy Helu - In his Raiders debut, he touched the ball 6 times for 22 yards including a 10-yard catch and run and a 2-yard run up the middle on third and one.